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North Carolina’s EV Growth Continues To Speed Past Expectations

Photo Courtesy North Carolina Environmental Quality

North Carolina’s green economy celebrated an important milestone recently when Gov. Roy Cooper announced that the state surpassed its initial electric vehicle (EV) registration goal two years early. According to a March 28 press release, the announcement continued a recent string of good news involving clean energy in North Carolina, reflecting a “major shift” in American driving trends.

Cooper laid out the state’s EV goals in a 2018 executive order (EO) — dubbed “EO 80” — that called on state agencies to evaluate their operations and set “specific, firm, and ambitious goals” to lower emissions across the economy. Those goals included increasing the number of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) registered in North Carolina.

Video Courtesy NCDOTcommunications

EO 80 was so named because it established an initial goal of 80,000 ZEVs by 2025. As of November 2023, that benchmark had already been passed.

“We knew the private markets were shifting to electric vehicles so we set bold goals that would help North Carolina communities be ready. Now it’s happening even faster than we anticipated,” Cooper said in a statement. “The key is making EVs more affordable with the assurance that charging stations are available at most places, and that’s why we are modernizing state policies and working to build out charging infrastructure in every community all across North Carolina.”

In 2018, about 10,000 total ZEVs were registered in the state. According to Cooper’s office, EO 80’s initial target of 80,000 ZEVs by 2025 was on pace with the “highest potential adoption rate scenario published in the NC ZEV Plan.” Surpassing this goal meant registering five times more ZEVs per year than usual while also “rapidly accelerating” the deployment of more charging stations.

Photo Courtesy North Carolina Department of Transportation

The press release said that since Cooper issued the order in 2018, state agencies, local governments, utilities, and private partners have cooperated to build the charging infrastructure needed to support the accelerated growth.

This effort increased the total number of accessible public charging ports across the state from 1,400 in 2019 to just less than 4,000 as of early 2024.

Over the past five years, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality has funded the construction of 901 Level 2 charging ports and 166 DC Fast Charging ports through the North Carolina Volkswagen Settlement Grant Program. In addition, the North Carolina Department of Transportation has funded charging stations installed in the cities of Asheville, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Morrisville, Charlotte, Chapel Hill, Roxboro, Oxford, Cary, and Raleigh.

Cooper has since upped the ante by signing EO 246 in 2022, which set a new goal of 1.25 million ZEVs on the road by 2030. Federal grant opportunities and tax incentives passed as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act will support these efforts.

Photo Courtesy North Carolina Environmental Quality 

In recent years, such initiatives have made North Carolina one of the leading states for EV investments. According to a March report from the Environmental Defense Fund, the Tarheel State saw a “meteoric increase of $9 billion in announced EV investments” during the previous six months, bringing the total to $19 billion.

David Kelly, NC director for the Environmental Defense Fund, told WCNC that federal legislation has been a key driver of capital investment in the EV industry and related supply chains.

Photo Courtesy Environmental Defense Fund

“In North Carolina, I think we pair that policy support with a world-class workforce and a strong reputation that we have as a state as a leader in the clean tech industry space, and that we’re seeing the benefits of that competitive advantage relative to our peers’ states,” Kelly said.


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